PR In Demand But Confusing to Many

If you’re in the medical field, your job is simple to define. If you’re in education, it’s easy to explain what you do. And if you’re in criminal justice, the same is true..

But how do you define what someone with a public relations degree does? Some who are PR majors, or have even graduated with this degree, have difficulty describing it.

According to a September LinkedIn poll, an online survey conducted by Opinium Research found that “Public Relations Manager” ranked among the top 10 most misunderstood jobs. The job comes in seventh place, with 42 percent of parents of their sons or daughters who work in this position unaware of what their offspring actually does for a living: 

This study is interesting, considering that this area of employment is expected to grow 21 percent by 2020 — among the fastest growing occupations (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Communication is also among one of the top 10 majors studied at universities, according to The Princeton Review.  You would think that with this much growth, there would be less confusion about the activities the title entails.

So what’s the answer? In actuality, a public relations specialist may even work harder or experience more stress than a surgeon, teacher or officer and still be unable to produce tangible results that provide insight as to what they do.  This seems unfair, but one of the toughest aspects of this profession is proving your value to your company or client.

Making the case for how much your employer actually needs you is a result of substantial research that should eventually measure the intangible questions that public relations practitioners deal with every day, which include perception, portrayal and public awareness of your company/client.

But it is also our job as candidates for public relations occupations to educate the rest of the world about what we do and why our role is vital to the success of many companies.

What do you think of the findings of this report? How does it reflect on people in the public relations industry that their career is ranked on this list? How do we change this perception of our industry?

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8 Responses to PR In Demand But Confusing to Many

  1. Mackenzie Keller says:

    I think the findings of this report is so accurate! Oftentimes I try and describe my career path to friends and family, and despite my efforts, I always end up saying something like, “it’s like advertising,” or, “it’s like marketing.” To change this perception, I think that practitioners should all get behind a cohesive definition of the profession.

  2. Tessa Kay says:

    I think that the findings of this report are very real. I know that personally for me when I tell people that I am going to school for PR I oftentimes receive the same reaction. The blank stares and shy nods just seem to illustrate the statistical findings. For me, some people don’t even know what PR stands for and these are college-educated people. I think as people in the PR field we have to change this by sharing what we do and that by having a presence on social media, we can show the world what PR is for.

  3. Marcela Palefsky says:

    Honestly, I am not surprised by the findings of this report. On the regular, after being asked what I am majoring in, the following question is, “Well, what exactly is that?” or “What can you do with that major?” I completely agree with you that the reason for this misunderstanding is that many people do not understand the value of what we do. They don’t understand that when a crisis such as the BP spill happens, it isn’t the company executives that take care of the aftermath. It is an entire team of hardworking PR professionals behind the wheel. I think the best way to change this perception is to educate ourselves on our own options for careers. Once we have a better grasp of what we are capable of, we can easily share this with anyone who asks.

  4. Steven Kapoloma says:

    I agree that current and prospective PR practitioners still have a job to market the public relations profession, more so in developing countries. Ten years ago in Malawi, the PR practitioners was seen as someone to be “nicer” to people and guests. As a result, many secretaries moved into PR. Five years ago (this conception still exists though few), PR was equated to media relations — the spokesperson — and as a result, many journalists were easily recruited to serve as PR practitioners. But now, many PR practitioners are moving into management positions.

  5. Fernando Aguilar says:

    I believe all professions have their impact on society and PR is no exception. It is true that some people may not know all the hard work a PR person has to do to achieve certain objectives. There is prejudice and misunderstandings but what you highlight is totally true: education of the rest to mutual understanding.

  6. Ashley Provenzano says:

    I think the findings of this report seem accurate. I am concentrating in the field of public relations and don’t think I fully understood all aspects of public relations clearly until this semester. It is a difficult idea and career to explain, and on top of that, after you explain what it is, it’s even harder to explain why it’s important and needed. I think its great that the industry is growing and I think that will eventually lead to higher knowledge about it.

  7. Katherine Becerra says:

    I think the findings of the report are accurate. As I try to explain what public relations is to my peers and family, I often find myself giving a brief answer that only encompasses a small portion of what PR does. Explaining PR can be confusing because the practitioner’s job can overlap with other industries. As future PR professionals, it’s important that we evaluate the role of PR and practice articulating what it is.

  8. Maja Cakarun says:

    This is the topic that is been discussed for decades, probably from first appearance of PR industry as such. PR results are sometimes hard to measure and the work of communication professionals may seem less visible than, for instance, accounting, finance or even the legal department. In general, people tend not to understand things they do not see, and soft skills are hard to perceive. That is why I’m not surprised by the perception and findings.

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